Christopher Guest Post: Mr. Crazy Kicks

It’s my pleasure to welcome “Mr. Crazy Kicks” as the latest guest to be featured in my eleven-question interview series, the Christopher Guest Post.

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Talented engineer makes good money, lives simply, invests in index funds, and retires in his thirties. Enjoys his days exploring new hobbies, riding a bicycle, and travels for next-to-nothing.

Oh, and he started a blog.

While it may be a familiar story, Mr. CK has some unique hobbies (shrooms), is an urban homesteader, and is making this happen in the relatively high-cost-of-living area known as Connecticut.

You’ll also notice that blogging doesn’t represent a career change for the young man. He blogs when he wants about what he wants, and the site isn’t much of an income source. And he’s clearly OK with that. You’ll find an average of about a blog post a month in 2018, the year in which he began his third year of early retirement.

Let’s get to know the homebrewing, vegetable-growing, crazy-shoes wearing FIREd guy a little better.

 

 

mr crazy kicks

 

 

What in the world is a Christopher Guest Post?

 

Inspired by Nigel Tufnel, the character portrayed by Christopher Guest in Spinal Tap, I took Mr. 1500’s ten questions, and amped them up to eleven.

 

If you’re not familiar with the scene, take 50 seconds to watch this video and enjoy the dialog between Nigel and Rob Reiner.

 

I decided I’d start a Q&A of my own. Not satisfied with just ten questions, “this one goes to eleven”. Just like Nigel’s amplifiers.

 

 

What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about your job? If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?

 

Before retirement, I was an engineer working on helicopters. My job involved researching and designing computerized flight controls, so I got to spend a lot of time flying simulators as well as riding around in test aircraft. It was stressful at times, but a pretty cool job.

When it comes to being a physician, I’d probably choose being a radiologist. Dealing with x-rays sounds a bit less hectic, and it still involves cool technology. In fact, I worked with an engineer who went on to become a radiologist. He came back to do research work part time because he was bored being a radiologist… So maybe scratch that. How about a surgeon? I’m good with knives. Need a new heart tube?

 

[PoF: I want to retire to your pre-retirement job. Have they filled that position yet? It has been a few years now, hasn’t it? Although, I can see how being airborne in test aircraft could be stressful. “What’s the safety record of this bird?” “Well, it’s never been flown, but the simulations are promising.”

I thought for awhile I might want to be a radiologist. They do have some of the coolest technology.]

 

 

Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.

 

In my opinion, health, wealth, and happiness are all driven by lifestyle. This is going to look different for everyone, but I share what my early retirement lifestyle looks like. I find the most effective way to convince family and friends to achieve FIRE is by showing them how awesome it can be. I do break down our financial strategies in as simple and concise terms as possible, but I also write a lot about what our sub $40k lifestyle looks like.

Don’t worry, fatFIRE physicians, my blog isn’t about extreme frugality. It’s more about juicing the most happiness out of each dollar spent. For example, we went to Spain and Jamaica last year for free through travel rewards. I also got to spend over a month this year surfing in Costa Rica. During the rest of the year, we live in New England and have a mini urban homestead where I do a lot of DIY projects and grow much of the organic food we eat.

 

We toured Spain for free

 

Even I used to think we’d need double the amount of money to live the way we do. That’s why I share not just our budget, but also what we’re doing with all the extra free time. Physician or not, if you like tinkering, DIY, gardening, travel, and/or personal finance, I’m sure MrCrazyKicks has something that will interest you.

 

[PoF: It’s especially fun to see what people are up to several years after retiring. Based on what I’ve seen, I can’t imagine you’d ever be interested in going back to a traditional 9 to 5.]

 

What inspired you to start a blog of your own? Was there a particular event you remember that made you feel your blog had arrived? Any big plans for your blog in the future?

 

I spent a lot of time in my cubicle reading blogs about how people got to retire early and what they were doing with the freedom they gained. So when I retired, I started my own blog to pay it forward. It’s also a way for me to nudge friends and family toward FIRE.

In the early days of my retirement, the blog was a way for me to keep feeling productive, and I wrote more regularly. After over two years of early retirement, I’ve become more comfortable with being unproductive (I’ve gotten lazy.) The blog is progressing the same way my retirement is – relaxed and free form. Some days I’m thinking about money, other days I’m obsessed with my latest hobbies, and my writing reflects that.

Interestingly, most referrals to my site come from personal finance posts, while most google traffic comes from DIY posts. So I guess I have no direction except to keep putting out posts that I think will be informative and interesting.

What do you think the future of MrCrazyKicks should be?

 

[PoF: I think you’re doing it right, my man. In some ways, I find it easier to keep up with the blog when we’re home and our lives are structured, even when I am also working.

The freedom that will come with early retirement, along with the extensive travel and homeschooling aspects, might make blogging on a rigid schedule more difficult and less appealing. I can imagine slowing down and writing when I have something I want to say.

On the other hand, for every post I publish, I have two or three other good ideas that end up in the draft pile.]

 

Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.

 

My Journey to Financial Independence

Reflecting on Two Years of Early Retirement

The Secret to Pizzeria Quality Pizza

DIY Greenhouse Design and Build

How to Get Started Hunting Mushrooms

Brewing Crazy Awesome Beer Cheap

Easy Ways to Crush Your Energy Bills

How to Travel Hack a $6,000 Vacation for Free

Should I Pay Off My Student Loan Debt?

Is the Stock Market Getting Too High?

Efficient Investing with the Three Fund Portfolio

 

[PoF: If the stock market did get too high there for a while, it’s come back to earth. I’ve been secretly hoping that would happen before I retire and not after. 

Count me in for some of that crazy awesome beer and pizza!]

 

At what age are you most likely to retire (or at what age did you retire) from full-time work? What are you doing to help realize your retirement target?

 

I retired at 34.

Our target retirement was to move somewhere warmer and cheaper where my wife could teach at a community college (for some reason she loves school) and for me to play farmer and tinker with different projects. We’d been working toward this since we were married – about 10 years ago – and had a goal of reaching financial independence by 2020.

The biggest boost came from maxing out pre-tax retirement accounts and investing into a three fund portfolio. After streamlining our investing, we concentrated on maxing out our savings rate which eventually went over 70%. With our financial sails trimmed, we progressed much faster than expected as the bull market pushed us along.

Even though we thought Connecticut wouldn’t be the best place to retire, about 4 years ago things started falling into place. My wife found a job at a local community college teaching physics and engineering. The pay was less than half of what she was making, but we were financially secure and I told her to go for it. The teaching gig covered our expenses, and we kept socking away my paycheck. A couple of years later, we hit our target – well ahead of our 2020 goal. Wanting to join my wife in her summer off, I quit my job that spring.

 

[PoF: The returns over the last ten years or so have made it easy for many of us to meet and exceed our goals. Even the bad years haven’t been all that bad since 2009. A lot of people have been freaking out lately, but the losses from most asset classes in 2019 were in the single digits.

I’ll be curious to see how long your wife continues with the teaching gig and whether you might end up someplace warmer, eventually. It sounds like you’re happy to stay put, but it’s good to know you have options.]

 

What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rearview mirror?

 

When I was working, my dream retirement was to move out into the country where I could play farmer while my wife taught at a community college. Since my wife found a position teaching in Connecticut, we never moved out to the country. Instead, we stayed in the same house that sits on a quarter of an acre. On our small plot of land, I manage a large garden, greenhouse, and chickens.

 

There is plenty to keep me occupied on our little compound

 

It’s not the sprawling homestead I originally envisioned, but urban homesteading has worked out much better than expected. We can grow more veggies than we need, and it’s more than enough to keep me busy. Now that I have some experience playing farmer, I’m realizing that I don’t want a big homestead – it’s a lot of work! I’m happy to have more free time to enjoy mountain biking and fishing while learning whole new hobbies like mushroom hunting.

Keeping things small has also allowed us to travel more than I originally planned. We have trusted neighbors close by to watch the house while we’re gone. Being in the suburbs also has the advantage of being closer to major airports. I’m finding it much more pleasant to spend winters in Costa Rica than on a homestead.

 

Snow-birding in Costa Rica has been a great addition

 

You envision an ideal retirement while working, and when it hits, it evolves and keeps evolving. I think I’m living my ideal retirement for now, but I couldn’t tell you what will be ideal 10 years from now.

 

[PoF: I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about our future plans, and my answers are intentionally vague. The vision may not match the reality, and that’s OK.

We plan on taking things one year and one adventure at a time. Sounds like a similar plan or lack thereof is working well for you.]

 

 

I’ll give you eleven sentences to dish out advice to a young physician. Any and all advice is welcome. We talk about personal finance, so money is fair game, but if you have advice on being a better doctor, a better parent / spouse / friend / human, we’re all ears.

 

The good doctor and I are on the same page when it comes to investing – a simple three fund portfolio of US stocks, International stocks, and bonds is efficient and effective. I already have more hobbies than I have time to pursue, and don’t need to waste my days researching stocks. Max out your 401k and any pre-tax savings options you have, then start making automated investments into a brokerage account.

With investing automated, all you need to do is have fun developing your own early retirement lifestyle. Try out some cheap new hobbies like learning to cook your favorite foods, brewing beer, gardening, hiking, biking, etc. The benefit of living as close to your early retirement lifestyle before retiring is that you will already know what your retirement budget will need to be.

All of this lifestyle building stuff is just as important as building a portfolio. When you leave work, you lose that part of your identity. The prestige and stimulation you found in being a doctor or engineer will be gone, and so will the co-workers that you talk to every day. It’s worth spending time along the way to develop community as well as hobbies you are passionate about.

Mrs. CK has med school hopefuls in her physics classes, and she says the most important thing she teaches them is to exercise reason and compassion.

 

[PoF: We are on the same page. Losing the career identity may be the toughest part of the transition for me. I can already hear my awkward hemming and hawing when asked the inevitable “what do you do for a living?”

You really made those eleven sentences stretch! I don’t know that anyone has put together quite as much good advice in the section given the limitations.]

 

You’ve got eleven days to visit anyplace in the world with an $11,000 budget. Where do you go and what do you do?

 

Jeez, the last time we almost spent that much money on a vacation was for a honeymoon to Fiji. We changed our minds last minute and went on 4 separate honeymoon vacations to Hawaii, the Keys, Newport, and Jamaica.

It would be tough to get ourselves to spend that kind of dough in 11 days, so we’d have to go to the other side of the world. Maybe fly to Australia and splurge on a big beach house – explore the surf breaks and the seafood. There would be plenty of cash for good beer and grillables so we’d invite some friends. Up for a beach party?

 

[PoF: I got my swim trunks. And my flippy floppies.]

 

 

Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.

 

I’m a simple man, beer and water make up about 95% of what I drink. That means we are going to have to get pretty specific here…

Tap water – ours is pretty darn good
Filtered tap water – even better than tap
Carbonated tap water – homemade from my keg
IPAs – flavor beers
Saisons – funky flavored beers
Belgians – good people, but I mean the beer
Light lagers – it’s important to hydrate
Green tea – it must be cold outside
Mint tea – still cold outside
Oolong tea – is that what’s at the Chinese/sushi restaurants?
Black tea – we must be out of beer

 

[PoF: That last line reminds of a great line from Dazed & Confused. “I came here to do two things. Kick some a** and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost out of beer.”

I’ll bet those drink drops would be pretty good in carbonated keg water. I used to keep some water on tap like that, but it takes such a higher pressure for good soda water compared to beer. Like triple the PSI.]

 

Now, eleven foods.

 

There’s a lot more diversity in what I eat. I love all kinds of food, and 11 is a short list!

Braised Beef
Pizza
Pho
Korean BBQ Ribs
Burgers
Tacos
Sushi
Stuffed Cabbage
Curry Goat
Fried Chicken
Escovitch Fish

 

[PoF: How many of these will you be serving at the beach party?]

 

How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for

 

I met the doctor when he stopped by my site to welcome me to early retirement.

It’s hard to give advice to one of the most successful personal finance bloggers out there. Whatever you’re doing, doc, keep it up! If anything I should be seeking your advice. I have one suggestion though: how about giving some of those PoF beer coozies to Christopher Guest Post guests? You know, to help with the advertising 😉

 

[PoF: All you had to do was ask! I can hook you up with a beer koozie anytime. You really should make the trip down to D.C. for FinCon this year, though, so we can say Cheers in person.

Thank you for humoring me and giving us an insider’s look at what it’s like to be retired and living a good life as a thirty-something.

[virtual] Cheers!]

 


Track your investments for free with Personal Capital. That's how I track the PoF portfolio

 

Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:

 

11 comments

  • I second PoF’s comment on coming down for FinCon! It would be great to meet you in person.

    What you’ve done is really impressive, and you’ve done it your own way. If we early retired, I’d worry about what we would retire to at this point. When I have loads of time off, my hobbies only take up so much time. That said, we are not big travelers at this stage of our life, though I think that may change as our kids get older.

    P.s. I think your wife is spot on to teach pre-medical students to focus on compassion. That’s one of the first things that the system can beat out of us, and yet it’s probably the most important to hang onto.

    TPP

    • My wife is a wise woman. It’s much easier to get ahead in life when you marry someone smarter than yourself 🙂

      I did not realize Fincon was on the east coast this year. I’m going to have to seriously consider making a trip to hang out!

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  • Great series PoF!

    Mr. CK – I am glad you experimented with some farming before going full homestead. Trying things like that out on a small scale is usually a good move.

    Wondering if you’re an introvert. Your hobbies and career would lead me to believe yes. You’d follow a line of introvert achieving early retirement

    • I’m happy I experimented first too. That’s how I recommend starting out any hobby. Start small and upgrade your skills before you make a big investment.

      You had me thinking hard about the introvert question. I asked my wife, and she says extrovert, but maybe that’s just relative to other nerds 😉 I’d probably say I’m in the middle.

  • I’m not really a proponent of the RE plan. The FIRE community is filled with kindred spirits due to our overlapping priorities on the FI part.

    Reading posts like this makes me want to RE. The longer I wait, the less “E” that move would be.
    There is something to be said for making the best use of your time when young. Thanks for sharing.

    • Unlike FI, RE isn’t for everyone. If you love your job, then the FI part just reinforces that you’re doing it because you love it, and not just for the money. I think that’s a great thing too 🙂

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  • Yes!!!!

    One of my favorite bloggers on one of my favorite blogs!!! It’s a match made in Heaven… or what ever mushroom induced vision you happen to be having at the time!!

    Mr.CK glad to see you made it here!!

    Cheers!!!

  • Love to see you showcase your great story on a blog I love.
    We still need to get that beer(s) at Treehouse Brewing…….!!

    All the best!!

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